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By Miriam Raftery

Photos by Deborah Jean Peck via Backcountry Community Bulletin Board on Facebook

January 24, 2023 (Boulevard) – An early morning fire on January 17 has destroyed the Manzanita Diner in Boulevard. Long a popular stop for motorists traveling along historic Old Highway 80, the building has housed a pizzeria and Italian restaurant as well as an earlier Basque restaurant. The diner had also been a gathering place for community events through the years.

Manzanita Diner is the latest in a string of diners shutting down across East County.  Last week, Major’s Diner, a ‘50s style eatery in Pine Valley, announced that it lost its lease. In recent years, Barrett Junction Café near Barrett Reservoir closed its doors after struggling to stay profitable and the Campo Diner closed permanently due to contamination of its well water.

Although the Manzanita Diner’s historic façade is still standing, Cal Fire Public Information Officer Thomas Shoots told East County Magazine, ““It was a total loss.

Shoots continued, “Our crews arrived to see it half engulfed in flames.”  He added, “Because of fuel loading the fire spread very quickly. Crews tried to go inside, but it was too intense, so they had to go defensive to save surrounding buildings.”

The 8,000 square foot building housed the pizza shop on one side, with the other side vacant, owners told Cal-Fire. Shoots said the owners indicated that the building as not insured, though they do have business insurance that may cover equipment.

The building, which Shoots estimated to date back to around the 1920s or ‘30s, was constructed of concrete blocks but had a wood roof and siding that burned quickly.

The Sheriff’s Bomb Arson squad is working to determine the cause of the fire, as is customary.

“Nobody was injured,” Shoots said. The Red Cross did provide assistance to two people living in a dwelling behind the restaurant, because the power was out.

ECM has reached out to the owners via Facebook messenger, but did not receive a reply. 

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